TAMPA, FL — The retirement of an iconic player like Tom Brady is a huge loss for any team. As much as he has transformed the Buccaneers’ franchise over the past three years, Tampa Bay’s current goal is to continue his winning legacy without him.

“You can’t get another Tom Brady anywhere,” said outside linebacker Shaq Barrett the day after the Cowboys lost a wild card to end the season in Tampa Bay. “No matter how hard I try, no matter how many years pass, I don’t think anyone will be like Tom.”

Many of the current Bucks players joined the teams they were already on in anticipation of a playoff appearance and contention there each year, instead of the lengthy playoff drought before Brady’s arrival. Ultimately, he was signed for 2023 out of a 53-man roster, and only 10 of his players were in Tampa before Brady’s arrival.

“From the top down, no one likes this feeling,” Barrett said of the disappointment of losing a record and the pain of an early playoff exit. We’re going to do whatever it takes so we can easily make it to the playoffs next year and make some noise in the playoffs.”

The Bucks are now not only without Brady, but as a result of their last two-year contract, the Bucks now have a significantly restricted salary cap to maximize the talent surrounding Brady and help their chances of success with him. We are moving forward. Tampa Bay is currently about $55 million above its 2023 salary cap of $224.8 million, but with Brady retiring, he will give the Bucks an additional $24 million rather than play for another team. Cap relief will be given and that money will be pushed up to 2024 instead.

Teams have had to make difficult cuts, restructurings and extensions just to stay below the cap, and that’s before signing 23 unrestricted free agents. They must decide on key return players, from veterans like linebacker Labonte David to younger players like cornerback Jamel Dean.

Overall, more than half of the Bucks’ defensive starts last season were made by players who are currently free agents, setting up what could be mass turnovers on that side of the ball, with rookies playing a key role. was pushed into

As a result, much like the reality of the Cap situation, the Bucks are almost certain to be a less talented team in 2023, but they are certainly a healthier team and could play better. The team is seeking a new offensive coordinator to replace Byron Leftwich after increasing from 61 offensive touchdowns in 2021 to just 31 last season. A new offensive staff could easily improve on their disappointing scoring prowess in 2022, even with fewer quarterbacks.

Finding a veteran quarterback competing with third-year pro Kyle Trask for the starting job isn’t cheap, and they’re modest, as opposed to the biggest names you could get by signing or trading in March. Trask has been waiting two years for an opportunity to succeed Brady, but Bucs wants to bring in a more proven product, at least for competition.

As in past seasons, the Bucks will have a playoff challenge in 2022 as they play in an NFC South that did not have a team with a winning record. All four teams could have a new quarterback in 2023, but the Bucks have his No. 1 schedule meaning his five games with the defending division champions. They will face the Eagles and Jaguars at home and the Bills, Vikings and 49ers away.

The pre-Brady Bucks had to wrestle in the same division as Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Cam Newton, but the 2023 NFC South is not to be confused with that. You can land it, but you’re more likely to go with a top rookie like Atlanta’s Desmond Ridder or a young passer. but not necessarily more.

Brady’s impact on the Bucks has been immense, taking them from a team that missed the playoffs 12 years in a row to a franchise with another championship, winning back-to-back division titles for the first time in its 47-year history. I went. He’s only played three of his seasons, but counting his games in the playoffs, he has more touchdowns his passing (121) than anyone in team history, and second only. has a lot of passes in his yards.

The Bucks left the field at Raymond James Stadium three weeks ago this year, fully aware that it could be their last time playing alongside Brady. The quarterback has already retired once and has endured a difficult 2022 both on and off the field, so there was hope he would return for another season, but there was some hope for his time with him in Tampa. I was also grateful.

Center’s Ryan Jensen said, “Thinking about it or being afraid of it can’t change the fact that he’ll be back here next year. ‘It’s part of the business.’

Brady’s retirement is just the beginning of what will be a big change offseason for Tampa Bay — a new offensive coach, new personnel on both sides of the ball — but with Todd Bowles betting his future on coaching. This is a team with high expectations because it’s hard to stay competitive, but it can be difficult without a legendary quarterback to help them.

“We know we don’t have everyone, we understand that, we have draft picks, injuries, free agency,” Bowles said of the team’s uncertain future after the season. rice field. “I can’t afford to take everyone in, so I will try to make the right decisions from now on. Thank you for all your efforts. When I come back here, I will see a different culture, a different chemistry, and a different friendship.”

Greg Auman is FOX Sports’ NFC South reporter covering the Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers and Saints. He entered his 10th season covering the NFL full-time with the Bucks, Tampa Bay he spent with The Times and The Athletic. You can follow him on Twitter. @gregauman.

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